More children referred to social care last year
There were 657,800 children referred to social care in England during 2013 to 2014, an increase of 10.8 percent on the previous year (593,500), with almost a quarter referred by police, according to figures from the Department for Education (DfE).
The most common primary concern for referred children was abuse or neglect (47.2%), followed by an identified family dysfunction (18.6%).
Collected annually, the children in need census gathers data on children referred to local authority social care services because their health or development is “at risk” of being “significantly impaired” without additional support.
If a local authority has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is “suffering or likely to suffer, significant harm”, child protective services are required to perform a Section 47 enquiry under the Children Act 1989.
Data revealed that 142,500 Section 47 enquiries were carried out between 2013 to 2014, an increase of 12.1% on the previous year.
Following a referral, a child may become the subject of a child protection plan. In 2013 to 2014 period, there was a “sharp increase” in the number of children starting a plan (13.5%), with a similar increase in the number of children “subject to a plan” on 31st of March.
Conclusive evidence showed that there were 346.4 children in need per 10,000 population. However, this figure has “great variability” at local authority level, with large fluctuations in data between different boroughs.
The report states: “The children in need per 10,000 population ranges from 149.3 in Wokingham and 181.9 in Surrey, to 649.2 in Middlesborough and 743.2 in Torbay.”
However, the report cautions that media attention on child protection issues may have increased the number of referrals experienced by local authorities.
The number of re-referrals within 12 months increased from 147,700 last year to 154,000 this year, but as a percentage of all referrals, fell slightly from 24.9 percent to 23.4 percent.
The census covers the financial year (1st April to 31st March), collecting data on:
- children ‘looked after’ by local authorities, either by placement with foster carers, in a residential home or with parents or other relatives
- children who are supported in their families or independently
- children who are the subject of a child protection plan
- unborn children identified as potentially requiring social care services